Mark Arrow is an avid outdoorsman and adventurer. He’s climbed mountains, rocks and ice all over the globe, from New York’s Keene Valley to The Himalayas. He divides his time between professional guide work with, Rock and Road Guides, and his masonry business, Arrow Masonry, where he is a fifth generation stonemason.
We continue with part 2 of our interview with mountaineer and climbing guide Mark Arrow of Rock and Road Guides.
WoolX Life: Both your masonry business and your climbing have taken you all over the world; Italy, France, Greece, Spain, the Himalayas, among other places. You’ve also got quite a few first ascents on your resume, is the exploration factor a big draw for you, as much as the actual climbing?
Mark: Oh yeah, meeting the people, eating their food,sleeping in their homes, learning to talk to people. Learning that you don’t really have to use words to talk, just simple hand gestures. And people are the same everywhere, they are kind and caring. They have the same struggles, I’ve been to a lot of really underdeveloped places, I think every U.S. citizen should go to an underdeveloped country and spend some time, you come back here with a different appreciation. Just the traffic lights, the painted lines on the road we have.
WoolX Life: I was recently surprised to learn that some of the best climbing spots in the U.S are right in WoolX’s back yard, tell me about the Gunks?
Mark: The Gunks is world famous rock climbing, the best on the east coast. It’s an east coast pristine site.
[ “The Gunks” refers to the Shawangunk Ridge which is the continuation of the easternmost ridge of the Appalachian Mountains through New York State. Located near New Paltz, NY The Gunks is one of the premier climbing areas in the country.]
WoolX Life: I’ve read that it’s one of the oldest sites in the U.S. for rock climbing, tell me about the history of rock climbing, did it just come out of mountaineering, trying to get to the top?
Mark: Yeah, people want to go up harder and harder ways. That’s how I got into rock climbing, first I was hiking mountains, mountaineering up above 10,000 feet and then I wanted to go and do more and more. And that’s basically why guys started to rock climb, the men who started rock climbing back then, they had chrome steel balls. Just ropes tied around their waists, pounded in pitons. With hiking boots on, they would put up the routes.
WoolX Life: When you climb do you specifically seek out ice to climb or are you just climbing to get to the top and ice is in the way, like ice/rock/ice/rock?
Mark: That’s mixed climbing. There are routes that you can do mix on, but you’ve got to wait until the ice comes in.
WoolX Life: What are some of your most memorable climbs? Any favorite places?
Mark: One of my favorite places to climb is Red Rocks, Las Vegas. It’s only about 20 minutes from the city. You’ve got like 2000 foot cliffs, faces to climb on. Outstanding rock, it’s cheap plane fare in and cheap hotel rooms, cheap food. Red Rocks is beautiful, quite a lot of rock climbers rank Red Rocks as one of the best. The Diamond in Colorado, that’s world class. The Diamond is 2500 feet and my son and I did that. Straight up and down rock.
WoolX Life: So you have three sons, are all of them involved in climbing?
Mark: My first two are, my third son is a Marine. He’s in Texas, he climbs, but he’s in the Marines now and doesn’t get out much. My second one lives close to The Gunks. My first son Seth, he’s like my main climbing partner. He’s a pediatrician. Seth and I, we’ve been all over the world climbing.
WoolX: You’ve been doing some extensive testing of Woolx out in the field, how do you think Merino Wool performs compared to synthetic technical fabrics?
Mark: Well it’s the warmth to begin with, wool is way better for warmth. And even in the hot weather wool breathes. That’s what’s good about this WoolX, because you have to layer yourself, you have to take up several layers when you go up on the mountain. When you go up above 10,000 feet, I always say 10,000 feet is like the benchmark, if you stay below 10,000 feet you don’t have to worry about the weather too much. If you go up above 10,000 it’s dead on winter all summer. You want to be able to layer yourself, and having this wool layering, it’s lightweight to carry inside your pack and it adds enough warmth. The warmth of it outweighs the weight of it in your pack. With WoolX you can drop a layer and still be safe, the blend of it is warmer and that’s a big plus. And wool, even if you do get it wet it will still keep you warm, like fleece. But fleece weighs more than wool and the warmth is not there.
WoolX Life: Are there any places or climbs you haven’t gotten to that you’d really like to accomplish?
Mark: Thailand. Chile, down in South America. Haven’t been there. I’d like to go to those two places. I haven’t found anyone to go with me on those. Seth and I, we’re going to China this coming May. And then in June I’m going to Mount Rushmore for rock climbing. Behind the faces, all the domes, they’re like 800 to 1000 feet, a nice easy day going up and down. It’s like climbing the empire state building. That’s a nice day.
WoolX Life: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us! We look forward to hearing more about your trips!
Check back in with Woolx Life to hear more about Mark’s adventures past and present!